By Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
If you need plants that look good in all four seasons, you’ll benefit from the list that follows. Most bloom in the spring, look great in summer, then turn fall colors, but never drop their leaves in winter. Strategically mixed with winter-blooming flowers, any of these plants will bring interest to a barren landscape. They even looked good with snow on them this past week.
Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, is very fragrant outdoors and valuable in the kitchen. Sapphire-colored flowers adorn this 3-foot high shrub in spring and again in fall. It also is available as a ground cover where erosion control or a cascading appearance is wanted. Both varieties provide that popular seasoning for cooking.
Oregon Grape Holly, Mahonia aquifolium, is the perfect mountain evergreen that is often mistaken for holly. Solar yellow flowers cover the entire plant in spring followed by a summer berry that is very pretty and very edible. Heading into winter the leaves turn a mixed cranberry and orange color that remains until spring bloom. This plant loves sun, heat, wind, and requires less water than many natives. In fact, we have the native form of this plant at the garden center with two other taller varieties; the three span growths from ankle to chest high.
Heavenly Bamboo, Nandina, is evergreen with bright red highlights through winter. Bamboo-shaped foliage is graced with clusters of white flowers in spring that form red berries as summer heat arrives. Think versatility with this 3-foot tall plant, as it is happy in any amount of sun, most soils, and tolerates any amount of cold or heat. In every season it brings interest to the landscape. This year’s late summer into early fall growing season was perfect for producing really nice nandinas.
Red Cluster Berry, Cotoneaster parneyi, has white flowers in spring evolving to red berries that remain on the plant through winter. It is a welcome food source for feathered friends hanging around after welcoming in the new year. Growing to 10 feet tall and wide, it loves sun, is easy to grow, and is a much hardier substitute for the popular red-tipped photinia.